Mauerberg, 3 km dry walls, 60% inclination. It is steep, we promise. Both arms and legs were needed to climb from one narrow terrace to another. The location is perfect, south facing and with the thick, high stone walls retaining the warmth at night. Robert’s walls impress, both on site and in glass.
We climbed the vineyard some weeks ago, guided by Robert with the surname Schätzle. He is since 2012 the proud owner of Schloss Neuweier and its historic vineyards. The walls of Mauerberg are several hundred years old and now under renovation by careful hands.
Schloss Neuweier, outside Baden-Baden in the north part of Baden, is renowned for its Riesling, but this time we pour an exquisitly aromatic Weisser Burgunder in our glasses. Almost a rarity. Only 4% of the 15 hectar of the castle’s mainly granitic vineyards holds Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc).
2013 is Robert’s second vintage on Schloss Neuweier. He describes the vintage as an challenge, but such a result.
Schloss Neuweier, Neuweierer Mauerberg, 2013 Weisser Burgunder trocken, VDP Erste Lage
Delicately aromatic with complexity: a kind of chalky minerality, fragent spring flowers, yellow fruit, apricot, citrus, all spiced by a pinch of dried herbs.
Medium bodied with balanced acidity, delicously palatefilling. Excellent length with complexity.
Robert’s wines are exquisite and delicate and this Weissburgunder is no exception. Beautifully crafted with character, aromatic and complex. Excellent!
The Easter sun shone happily when we sat down, browsed through our notes and talked about the impressions. It took a while, many pages and much to discuss, but the sum up was easy and just as happy as the sun: overwhelmingly positive. And that goes not only for the wines, but for the whole experience. The trip, the nature, food and accomodations and, above all, all the wonderful people we met. We have already lost count of the number of travel recommendations we shared since we came back.
Two weeks have already passed since we came back from our wine trip in Pfalz (the Palatine) and Baden. Our very first visit. Yes, the first real wine trip to Germany ever, we admit that. And if we not had met the VDP-producers at the Sommelierers’ Day in Gothenburg earlier this year, this trip would propably not have been made.
About the wines we tasted. Pure, fresh flavours. Skilled winemaking with clear ideas, bringing out the place and the vintage conditions. Joy and experimentation, always with quality in the driver’s seat.
The most difficult? Long wine lists, a producer can make up to 50-60 wines (in the same year!). Hard for us to choose, but we understood that there is a local demand. A surprise was that such a large part of the production was sold directly to private customers from the cellar door. 60% was mentioned from one of the producers. Add to that direct purchases from restaurants and there will just be smaller volumes left for export.
Whiteis dry, pure and distinct. Good minerality and tickling nerve in many. Often raised in stainless steel, but also matured in barrels of different sizes. A range of lovely Weissburgunders (Pinot Blanc) became an eye opener for a delicious food wine that we see much too little of in Sweden. Several excellent Chardonnays. Of course Riesling and Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris). Yes! So beautiful!
Fine sweet wines are also made, we tasted delicious Beerenauslese. Sparkling, sekt, is included in several producers’ wine portfolio.
Redis in the quality segment mainly Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). And such a Spätburgunder!!! Already among the entry level wines, you can get good ones for relatively small money. The best are fruity, exquisitely balanced with super integrated oak and well polished fine grained tannins. The texture is like velvet on the palete. Wow, so tasty!
For those who haven’t been on the wine route in Pfalz and Baden before, some experience, advice and tips:
About the landscape. Southern Pfalz is so beautiful. Not surprising that it is called the Tuscany of Germany. Gentle, rolling hills connect to the protective Palatinate forest in the west. Almond trees flourish and figs and lemons ripen.
Deutsche Weinstrasse, the German wine route, starts in the south of Pfalz and winds north through picturesque small villages with beautiful stone and half-timbered houses. It is easy to notice that there is often sandstone in the soil. It is used as a beautiful building material in both houses and walls.
In Baden the mighty Schwarzwald protects in the east. From the castle Staufenberg in Durbach we enjoyed a breathtaking view over the mountains and the valleys, filled with vineyards.
In the south of Baden, towards the French boarder, the hottest vineyards in Germany are found on the south-west part of Kaiserstuhl. The feeling is very special, climbing and wandering around this old exctinct vulcano, raising from the surrounding flat landscape. Dark grey vulcanic stones and thorny cactus remind about the origin.
Those who like hiking and biking will enjoy both regions. There are plenty of small roads with sign posts leading across the vineyards. We met many taking a slower or faster stroll even this early in the season.
About visiting wineries. We had prebooked several visits, but also made some spontaneous visits based on some research back home. (Everything well documented in the “excel list”, the for us indispensible itinerary.) It is easy to knock on the cellar door of a “weingut” and you get welcomed to the tasting room, the probierstube. You taste, get a nice chat (English works mostly) and buy what you like.
Most producers are open on week days from about 9 to 18, with a longer break for lunch. Saturday is also business day, but opening hours varies. Sundays are however most often closed, it is the rest day. Check the internet home pages.
About the trip. We take the car out in wine Europe when we can. Simply because it is convenient and we want to buy some wines and bring back home. Especially from new producers and/or wines not available in Sweden. We took the car this time too.
Pfalz is on convenient car distance for us. It is possibly to drive on one day from the south of Sweden. We usually take the ferries via Helsingborg-Helsingör and Rödby-Puttgarden, that route gives natural breaks. This time we started at lunch time, had a night in Denmark and reached Deidesheim just before five in the afternoon. On the way home we drove from the south of Pfalz to Bohuslän in Sweden on 15-16 hours. And got a little bit of a chock, when we had to end the journey in a very bad snow storm in contrast to the flowering almond trees in the morning.
A tip. Have a GPS in the car. It will be so much easier to navigate in villages and find the way to the wineries and hotels. (And so much more relaxing for the one = yours truly, who in the old days always had to be alert and follow the maps.)
About stays and food. We usually get a mix of accomodations and so this time, from bed & breakfast to castle hotel. Wifi is not something to take for granted. Check if it is important.
Schloss Neuweier, Rötteles Restaurant & Residenz, Baden-Baden.
Schloss Neuweier, Rötteles Restaurant & Residenz, Baden-Baden.
Weinhotel Mugler, Gimmeldingen.
Gästehaus Ritter von Böhl, Deidesheim.
Gasthaus Sonne, Wasenweiler, Ihringen.
Gästehaus No 31 im Rosengarten, Kapellen-Druisweiler.
“Weinhotel”, that is a hotel run by a wine producer, was a new nice experience. Fun to sit in the restaurant in the evening and taste a selection of the producer’s wines. On several restaurants we have been able to order small carafes with 10 cl wine in each. Perfect when you want to taste a number of different wines to the food. The food? Yes, we have eaten very, very good!
To think about when it comes to pay the bill. Credit cards is still not accepted everywhere in Germany. Mostly it worked (at hotels, restaurants and wineries). However, some only accept what is called EC Card (Maestro), a sort of cash card. Sometimes you have to pay an extra fee to pay with credit card. A reserve fund in cash is thus recommended. We had to use our at several times.
About the best time to travel. In March and April, the almond trees blossom with skies of white and pale pink flowers. People travel to Pfalz just to see them. The time for the almond tree festivities starts in the beginning of March and lasts through April. Of course depening on the weather.
This year, the trees had just started to flower during our stay in the middle-end of March. And in the vineyards, the budding had not yet got a real start. The pruning was made in most vineyards and the work consisted of bending the branches down to the wire. A little bit of winter feeling still there even if the air was getting warmer.
“Come back when it is green,” many said. “Come back in May, it is so beautiful then!” “Come back and experience some of all the wine festivals during summer!”
In common, everywhere we came, was the wonderful, friendly and hospitable people who welcomed us with their hearts and really wanted us to come back to their paradies on earth.
We will follow the prompts. We will gladly come back and next time we will come when the landscape is green!
What can be better than going to the prince’s ball at the castle? We know. Much better is to meet the charming, energetic Robert Schätzle at his Schloss Neuweier in Baden, and to explore the wines made of grapes grown in the historical vineyards surrounding the delightful castle.
The history of the vineyards is impressing, cultivated already by the Romans. The famous Mauerberg vineyard, with about 3 km of drystone walls holding up the terrassed vineyards on the steep hill, is more than 500 years old. However, in Victorian time it was not the Mauerberg but the sparkling Neuweier that rendered the highest price. Interesting is also the tradition of bottling the wines on bocksbeutel, the only place where this is allowed outside Franken.
The Schloss Neuweier wines are not loud, but delicious and fine. Robert makes them to express purity and minerality. As light butterflies, I have written in my notebook as a heading for the 2012 and 2013 Rieslings. The Weissburgunders were other favourites, such super-foodie wines.
And even if there isn’t any ball to attend, it is a treat to stay at the castle. Calm and relaxing. Lovely decorated rooms and excellent food by Röttele’s Restaurant & Residenz. Looking out of the window right into a vineyard, that is a winelover’s holiday dream.
You can expect some more to read about Schloss Neuweier. Coming when all my notes have been sorted out.